A perfect storm has been brewing across the United States—and in Oregon, in particular—and most of us haven’t even noticed.
Turns out managing pain on a daily basis is killing us.
What’s noteworthy about the pain management crisis is that the blame crosses all sorts of boundaries.
We all-too-readily blame individuals for their addiction to pain-killers, and we quickly blast pharmaceutical companies for promoting drugs.
Physicians, too, shoulder some of the blame, in part because states like Oregon require them to ease their patients’ pain or face punishment.
One doctor told me Oregon tracks pain patients, and if they report their pain hasn’t eased, then the physician is called on the carpet.
Today’s New York Times reports that opioids—which, like OxyContin, are widely used to treat pain—were blamed for 37 percent of all fatal drug overdoses in 2013.
Drug overdoses, alcoholism and suicide are killing off Baby Boomers at significant rates.
While Boomers in most countries are living longer than ever before, aging folks in the US are dying sooner—at least those in the working class.
Columnist Richard A. Friedman says death rates from prescription opioids “increased more than fourfold between 1999 and 2010, dwarfing the combined mortality from heroin and cocaine.”
Prescription pain-killers jumped dramatically in the 1990s when Perdue Pharma developed a slow-release OxyContin pill, “perfect for a population of patients who were suffering from chronic pain,” according to the Huffington Post.
Sales shot from $48 million in 1996 to nearly $1.1 billion four years later, according to a scientific study.
When Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin in 1996, it was aggressively marketed to doctors.
The slick campaign downplayed addiction, “So the medical community was taught to believe that addiction to opiates was relatively rare,” said one physician.
As a result, we are facing a crisis in which our friends and neighbors are dying from addiction.
“The consequences,” Friedman writes, “are staggering.”
Artwork credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com